University of Queenland (Brisbane, Australia)

September 10th, 2011 by QS in Science team Categories: University of Queensland No Responses

Print Version_UQ Case Study_Sept2011

The University of Queensland (UQ) is based in Brisbane, Australia with approximately 40,000 students enrolled across undergraduate and post-graduate programs. Established in 1909, UQ is a member of the research-intensive Group of Eight universities in Australia and a member of the global Universitas 21.

Science at UQ: The Faculty of Science offers a Bachelor of Science (BSc) program with 20 majors along with a series of smaller, more structured named degree programs and a suite of dual degree programs. The program has an average annual in-take of 1000 students. The entry requirement for the BSc is an overall position of 10 (OP; range of 1-25 with 1 being the top rank).

Mathematics requirements for entry into Science: The BSc requires Mathematics B or equivalent, which is a calculus based high school Mathematics unit.  Queensland has three mathematics units, Mathematics A (basic unit), Mathematics B and Mathematics C (advanced Mathematics taken in parallel to Mathematics B).

The UQ case study focuses on the Biomedical Sciences major in the BSc, and is framed around a model of educational change based on the work of Michael Fullan.

Initiation of Change

“Who prompted need for QS in science and why?”

At an institutional level, a cycle of review for generalist degrees occurs every 7 years. This prompted a substantial review of the BSc in 2007 leading to sweeping changes to the program from 2008. The review documentation was compiled into a single, publically available document. A report on the UQ BSc Review process was published on the Australian Universities Quality Agency good practices website as well.

During the institutional review process for the BSc, QS were recognized as a core attribute for UQ science students. Inspired by BIO2010, building QS across all majors in the BSc became a stated goal for the curriculum.

In the Biomedical Sciences, the belief that QS were an essential attribute was widely accepted.

Vision for Change

“What do QS in Science look like?”

At an institutional level, University-wide graduate attributes were first developed in 1996 with a series of reviews and subsequent modifications.

The BSc Review, building on the University-wide graduate attributes, established a set of Science-specific graduate attributes, listed on page 247 of the BSc Review document.

More broadly, the 2007 BSc Review committee listed 12 recommendations, the first three relevant to QS in Science:

1. Development of a proposed structure that focuses more on the quantitative and information aspects of science, in which all students are required to take the units entitled(i) Foundations of Science (SCIE1000) and (ii) Analysis of Scientific Data and Experiments (STAT1201).
2. A concerted effort to teach a range of units in a more interdisciplinary manner, rather than as isolated entities.
3. Strong recognition that mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology are enabling sciences and this is reflected in the expectation that all students who graduate with a UQ BSc will have achieved a level of competence in all of these areas.

In the Biomedical Science major, a team of academics drafted a set of major specific attributes that explicitly included QS, which are listed on page 252-253 of the BSc Review Document.

Implementing for Change

How is need for QS in Science translated into practice?

The Biomedical Science major in the BSc recommends a common structure for first year students and includes some core units with greater flexibility to choose electives as students progress in upper levels of study.

Curriculum Structure for building QS: The BSc with a focus on the Biomedical Sciences major. The above diagram shows the ‘critical QS pathway’, highlighting the requisite units for the major.

1st level features a highly recommended interdisciplinary Science-Mathematics unit, SCIE1000: Theory and Practice in Science, introduced in 2008. Statistics is a compulsory unit for all BSc students. Prerequisites for the major include chemistry, which relies on a high level of QS, and two biology units, neither of which relies heavily on QS.  The first year study planner is posted online.

2nd level features a breadth of choice with the philosophy that QS will be embedded into the Biomedical units.  From 2011, QS is explicitly incorporated into one of the core units, System Physiology, with a statistics lecture teaching into the unit.

3rd level features a breadth of choice with the philosophy that QS will be embedded into the Biomedical units. A capstone unit is required for ALL Biomedical Science majors in the BSc and includes a substantial QS component.

Extra Curricular QS: The University has some support structure for BSc students needing assistance in QS-related learning such as:

  • Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS)- is offered in first year statistics, chemistry and biology and offers students additional weekly study sessions facilitated by 2nd and 3rd year students.

Interdisciplinary QS:  Sporadic, individual interdisciplinary collaboration is common at UQ.  However, the concept of systemic adoption is now gaining grounds and being explored through an initiative of the Faculty of Science. Building QS across the curriculum is a priority area for the 2011 Faculty of Science Teaching/Learning Grants scheme.

Evaluating the Change

“How effective has the change to build QS in Science been?”

Institutional standardised evaluation procedures are in place at UQ, including general unit surveys.

Evaluation of QS specifically has been under-taken at a few levels

Unit level: SCIE1000: Evaluating the effectiveness of this new interdisciplinary science-mathematics unit

Research investigating the impact of learning mathematics in the context of science was completed during the first iteration of the unit  (Matthews, Adams and Goos, 2009).  Evaluation of SCIE1000 among biology students was conducted by Matthews, Adams, & Goos (2010). (Fig 2.)

Fig 2. Biology student perceptions of SCIE1000  in 2008 and 2009 on a 5-point Likert scale with standard deviation. The first survey question was, Think about your whole experience in this course (unit). Overall, how would you rate this course (unit)? (1 _ poor, 5 _ outstanding). The second survey question was, How important do you think mathematics is in science? (1 _ not at all important, 5 _ very important). Source: Matthews, et al. (2010)

Program-level: QS learning outcomes in the new BSc

A research project into the implementation of capstone units in Biomedical Science has resulted in a benchmarking project across UQ and Monash. This involves the administration of the Science Students Skills Inventory (SSSI) which explores graduating students’ perceptions of their attainment of science specific learning outcomes including QS.  In 2011, the SSSI will be administered across Monash and UQ for both the BSc and Bachelor of Biomedical Science.

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Thanks to the following people at University of Queensland for collaborating with us to document this case study.

Peter Adams, Professor of Mathematics, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching, Faculty of Science
Jon Curlewis, Associate Professor of Physiology, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Science
Michael Bulmer, Senior Lecturer in Statistics, School of Mathematics and Physics Mathematics, Faculty of Science

If you have any questions or comments on the University of Queensland case study, you are welcome to contact them directly.

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This case study is up to date as of September 2011. Interviews for this case study were conducted in August 2011.